Feeding the world with science not emotion

Feeding the world with science not emotion

News
Matthew Cossey.

Matthew Cossey.

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The idea of moving away from the environmentally sustainable practice of no-till agriculture as an answer to global food security is incorrect and dangerous.

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ACTIVISTS have been running fear campaigns against modern agricultural practices for decades.

Of course, people are entitled to different opinions but on matters of science, they are not entitled to different truths.

The idea of moving away from the environmentally sustainable practice of no-till agriculture as an answer to global food security (Time to get real on glyphosate, farmweekly.com.au, July 16,) is incorrect and dangerous.

Attempting to feed the growing world with only low-productivity food systems like organic - which use only non-synthetic chemistry - would have devastating impacts on the environment and humanity.

Shunning no-till farming (chemical weed control rather than soil ploughing) with its proven sustainability benefits would almost certainly result in the conversion of forests, grasslands and other habitats into farming cropping and pasture, resulting in habitat destruction for insects.

Surely something people who are even nominally committed to the environment want to avoid.

Even in a food-secure nation like Australia, there is room for improvement.

Rather than throw our food producers under the bus, we should be turning the conversation to combatting food loss and waste.

Pests, weeds and diseases continue to be major threats to the production, profitability and sustainability of Australia's farming sector, leading to food loss.

At the other end of the spectrum Australia wastes more than five million tonnes of food to landfill each year.

Food loss would be even higher without the innovations of the plant science industry.

Crop protection products continue to provide the world's crops with vital protection against insects, diseases and weeds during production and harvest.

Without them, global crop losses could as much as double each year.

In Australia, more than $20 billion of Australia's total agricultural output is attributable to pesticides.

Biotech crops help to prevent pre-harvest losses by protecting against threats such as diseases and pests which can cost farmers 60-80 per cent of their yield in some regions.

The produce that is not lost is not immune to then being wasted.

Food waste contributes to about eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and can cause as much damage to our planet as plastic waste.

Governments around the world are tackling the issue of food waste through the UN Sustainable Development Goal of halving food waste by 2030.

These efforts have an ally in the plant science industry.

A great example is Arctic Apples.

Developed using CSIRO technology by a Canadian company and now released in the US, these gene-edited apples essentially eliminate browning and are therefore less likely to be thrown away, cutting food waste.

It's an ideal solution in nations where consumer demands for the "perfect" fruit and vegetables means that half of all produce is thrown away.

This is just the beginning.

If we truly embrace the power of plant science, rather than continue to attack safe and essential chemistry, we will find a wealth of ways to contribute to global food security.

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